Learning composition in photography is a critical element of photography basics. The ability to understand composition techniques can genuinely help you make a difference in your photography, allowing you to take better photos every time. There are several different rules to keep in mind when planning the perfect picture taking session, including the following:
10 Ways to Improve Your Photography Composition
- Use the Rule of Thirds
- Understand Your Focal Point
- Choose the Appropriate Angle
- Use Lines in Your Images
- Frame Your Subject
- Take Advantage of Empty Space
- Adjust for Background and Foreground Depth of Field
- Avoid Cutting Off Vital Aspects of the Subject
- Use Symmetry in Your Photos
- Use Complementary Colors
Composition in photography, like the composition in art, is an integral part of creating an overall image. By introducing the above ten rules into your photography composition, you are giving yourself the best chance at taking great photos that you will make you proud.
What Does Composition Mean in Photography?
When it comes to photography, composition is how you put your photo together. It is the way the elements in your photograph are composed within the frame of your camera’s lens. It deals with how you frame your subject, what type of angle you use, the depth of your photo, complementing colors, plus a variety of other photography techniques that can make your photographs come to life and stand out from others.
There are a lot of different ways you can use composition to build your perfect image, and believe it or not, something as simple as the angle you use can change the photograph from a good picture into a great view.
Use the Rule of Thirds in your Photography
When it comes to taking the perfect photo, try out using the rule of thirds in your composition to create an eye-pleasing image.
What is the Rule of Thirds in Photography?
The rule of thirds in photography is when you imagine horizontal and vertical lines to divide the frame into nine squares: three by three. Many cameras already have this feature built-in, which allows you to toggle an overlay on or off in your viewfinder. If your camera doesn’t have this feature, you can also do this in your mind.
Once you have the three-by-three sections, you can change the framing of your subjects. Instead of putting your subject in the center of the image, for instance, you now have “thirds” to work with, allowing yourself the opportunity to create eye-catching photos by arranging your subject differently. Try it out next time you take pictures– you will be thrilled to see that your photos look better when your subject is not perfectly centered. Using the rule of thirds in your photography composition can create a more satisfying picture by bringing other details of the frame into focus.
Understand Your Focal Point
What may seem like the easiest part of photography can surprise you! When you get ready to take a good photograph, it is essential to truly understand the subject, which is called your focal point. By having a good understanding of the landscape, item, or person that should be highlighted and in main focus, you are ensuring that other viewers are immediately drawn to your subject.
Understanding the focal point is one of the principal photography composition basics. Find your focal point, focus on that subject, and choose how you would like to frame it. Be sure not to center your focal point every time you take a photo. It can be much more eye-catching if you place the subject of the photo off-center.
Choose the Appropriate Angle
You might not believe it, but choosing the perfect angle in your photography composition can significantly alter the quality of your photo. If you’ve been framing and taking photographs of your subjects from above and it feels somewhat stale, try something new. Drop the camera, so it’s level or below the subject, or try taking the photo from the side. It makes all the difference in some shots, by merely rearranging how the subject is framed. This technique can be used for landscape photography or portraits, making it one of the easiest (and most fun) ways to create entirely different pictures.
Use Lines in Your Images
When planning your photography composition, you might not think of using lines as being something extraordinary. At first, it might even seem to make things worse, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll see how lines can drastically alter your photographs. The human eye is naturally drawn towards lines in a picture and using them to your advantage will make your photo look more appealing.
Horizontal lines give the general idea of a calm, serene landscape that is easy on the eyes and can be genuinely appealing to view. These lines, such as those in landscapes like hills and on water, all have a purpose in your composition– to draw the viewer’s interest.
Diagonal lines can create the general idea that your subject is moving while you are taking the picture. Take street photography, for example: If you frame a man standing on the street, it might appear that he is walking down the street based on how the lines of the road are diagonal behind him. This is a great trick for creating the illusion of movement in your photography.
Leading lines are a little bit different: They help to direct the eyes toward the subject. If you are taking a photo of a winding path in nature, the outline of the sides of the path is where your eyes will naturally gravitate towards, capturing your attention and allowing your eyes to follow along up the road to your subject. These are the kinds of lines that will capture the viewer and take them through the image, through the scene, and allow them to pick up all the little details along the way, so be creative!
Using lines in your photography composition takes a little practice, but eventually, you will start to see the lines in your mind before you even decide to take the shot. You will be able to piece together what looks natural, what is appealing to the eye, and what subjects make good photographs, simply based on the position of the lines and the details around them.
Frame Your Subject
When it comes to framing your subject, there are a variety of different techniques that you can use in your composition to create amazing photos. Framing your subject will draw attention to the person, place, or thing that you are taking a picture of. Whether you choose to fill the entire frame with the subject, frame your subject by using the “frame inside a frame” method, or using the scenery around your subject for framing, there are plenty of ways to draw the eyes to your subject using framing.
Fill the Frame
For portrait photography composition, including headshots and close up shots of animals or people, you will want to fill the frame with the subject. This technique brings out their best details.
The frame-inside-a-frame method in photography composition is a great way to compose a photo of your subject. This works well for taking photographs inside the house (such as in a doorway), or outside (such as inside a garden trellis or the mouth of a cave). The idea is to create natural “frames” inside the camera frame, producing an allure all its own.
Framing with Scenery
The right kind of scenery often works well to create frames. This technique can be just what you need for your photography composition. For example, if you are taking a photograph of someone inside a car with the window down, it would be an excellent way to naturally frame the shot. You can also use other scenery elements, such as rocks, pathways, or tree branches to create frames that will place your subject in an eye-pleasing manner. By using a frame in your image composition, you will have no trouble drawing the eyes toward your subject matter.
Take Advantage of Empty Space
If your subject is surrounded by open space, such as a cathedral stretching off into the sky, or a boat alone in the water, be mindful of the space around the subject and use it in the composition of your photo. One way to do this is to make sure your subject is not centered, but slightly off to the side. By utilizing the extra space when you are composing your shot, you can help draw even more attention to the subject in question. Whether it be the sky, water, or an open field, that space can help draw more attention to the original item or person you want to capture. Negative space like this can become a beautiful part of your photo!
Adjust for Background and Foreground Depth of Field
When composing your shots, it is vital to determine how you want the photograph to look. Are you trying to capture an object up close, but want it to look farther away? Do you want to bring an object in the background closer? To do this, you have to understand how to adjust for background and foreground depth of field.
When composing your photograph, be sure to examine the background and foreground around you and use it to your advantage. If you want a close-up subject to appear farther away, try different angles for your photo and be sure to include other close-up objects, such as flowers, grass, or a road. While arranging the shot, be sure to keep your focus on the main subject.
Avoid Cutting Off Vital Aspects of the Subject
This one might sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how quickly it can occur. It’s always important to remember not to cut off any vital aspects of your subject in the shot. When composing an image, be sure you have everything you want to be contained inside the camera’s frame. If you are trying to capture a full-body shot, make sure your subject’s face, body, and limbs are all in the frame – it’s not something you can fix later, so it’s important to get it right before taking the photo.
Also, it’s important to focus on the correct part of the subject – if you want the subject’s face to be the focus, for instance, make sure you aren’t focused mainly on the arms or hands. This will help you take great pictures of people, pets, and other items. If you are composing a landscape photograph, make sure that you don’t cut off an important part of your subject, such as a bench, boat, tree, etc. This will ensure your photos have good composition. A wide-angle lens can be very helpful for these types of photos.
Use Symmetry in Your Photos
You don’t always have to center your subject in the frame, but if you do, be sure to use symmetry in your composition. This is a commonly used technique when taking photos of pets or people. Symmetry in composition tends to be appealing.
Photographing landscape or a person can be appealing if centered. Imagine a line down the center of your frame, and from there, adjust your composition so that both sides are symmetrical to each other. This technique can add artistic balance to your photos. For example, a symmetrical photograph of an ornate staircase can fill the frame in a way pleasing to the eye.
Use Complementary Colors
Using complementing colors in your photography composition is a great way to create eye-catching images. With a color wheel, you can determine which colors are complementing colors, by viewing which colors are directly opposite from one another on the wheel. By using complementary colors, both in landscape photography composition and portraits, you will see quite the difference in the quality of your photos.
Photography Basics: How to Fix Bad Composition
Now and then, a photo that you think worked pretty well may not turn out as impressive as you hoped. This happens, and it’s perfectly normal. In most cases, this can be fixed using an editing program. Lightroom is a wonderful program that is great for editing photos and making changes, such as cropping, tilting, zooming, and filtering to make the photograph look better.
Cropping your image allows you to easily cut out any part of the picture that you want to exclude. For example, if you took a picture and later found there was an unwanted tree at the edge of the frame, you can crop it out. This is a great way to eliminate too much negative space, as well.
You can use the tilt tool to easily change the perspective of your photograph. This is helpful if you don’t like a certain angle of a photo, or if you want to enhance the angled effect. Sometimes, this tool can save a photo that didn’t properly follow the above composition tips.
When your subject is too small or far away, you can easily zoom in on your photo, cutting out unneeded extras that can be found in the background. In many ways, this process is similar to cropping.
In Lightroom, there is a tool that allows you to select an area on your photograph and straighten its angle. This is extremely useful if you have a photograph that features a crooked landscape, as you can straighten it out a bit, and the straight line will make it more appealing to the eyes.
If your photo is a little bland and needs some sprucing up, you can always use the filters that come with Lightroom to change the entire look of the picture. For example, the black-and-white filter and the antique filters are both interesting and can change the image. The right filter can often draw focus away from subtle problem areas in the picture. You can also change the color of the photo, adjust the brightness, contrast, saturation, and sharpness, which can make your images pop.
Photographic composition is how you arrange the items in your picture. The rules of composition are incredibly important and can make the difference between good photos and great photos.
There are many ways to achieve proper composition in your photos, including things like using negative space to make the photographs appear more attractive, framing your subject properly, and even making sure that you have the right complementing color scheme in the photograph.
The focal point of your scene is important, as well. You want to be sure you capture it properly, but not always centered, and be sure to use a different point of view from time to time. This will help you capture angles you might not have otherwise considered.
Learning photography composition basics is an important step towards improving your photography skills. It can truly help you to achieve great pictures each time you snap the shutter button. As you practice your composition techniques, you’ll feel the joy and excitement that comes with finding your style and becoming a better photographer.